Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lost In Space S1 Ep11: Wish Upon A Star

A few more shreddings and that dress on Marta Kristen would have fallen clean off! Lost In Space would have acquired a whole new audience.
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"Roles were based on the Space Family Robinson characters found in the Gold Key Comic of the same name." -Mark Goddard from To Space And Back-
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"Theory and conjecture. Nonsense and jabberwocky. We have the gift horse let us not examine its mouth too closely." -Dr. Zachary Smith-
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Once again, Lost In Space picks up right where it left off with its pseudo-serial connectivity. Dr. Zachary Smith is relaxing while Will Robinson and Major Don West handle the heavy lifting.

If you don't recall West flipped the smoking fuel cell away and when it explodes he is nearly killed. How Dr. Smith doesn't get his neck rung long before the series ended is something of a small miracle. As always, Dr. Smith denies any responsibility for his negligence with the fuel cell, which he carelessly tossed to the ground. Professor John Robinson intervenes to prevent Don from strangling Smith's and he wants answers. As is often the case, our young friend and sometimes hero, Will Robinson, is quickly placed in the middle and forced to give his take on events that have transpired. All in all, the dynamic between the actors/ characters on the show is the major attraction on Lost In Space. Speaking of major, it's always good to see Goddard in the mix. In fact, it's exchanges between the full ensemble in the series that gave the space drama a certain swagger.


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The camera work is sometimes interesting on Lost In Space. Ground to sky shots for intimate, up close and personal exchanges between our colorful cast of characters offer a visually interesting touch.
John informs Smith he hasn't done his part to preserve the hydroponic garden. That too is lost. Don gives Smith a piece of his mind and expresses his desire to rid the family of him. Smith asks John if those are his feelings and John bites his tongue. Nevertheless, words unspoken speak volumes. Smith gets the message loud and clear. The mere suggestion is amusing as we are quickly discovering Smith is as cowardly as they come. Surviving on a strange planet solo doesn't appear conceivable. John yearns to teach him a lesson. Smith exits with laser rifle in hand. Smith protests that there is nothing anyone can do to keep him at the base camp. Of course, no one is saying anything at all. No one is interested in stopping his departure. Off goes Smith in Lost In Space, Season One, Episode 11, Wish Upon A Star.
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Later in the evening, Will worries for Smith. His father assures him there's nothing to fear. Elsewhere, Smith has a pathetic little fire going. The sounds of a strange creature fills the air and he fires his laser rifle out of fright. A random, strange paper mache kite-like creature with a bizarre little giggle flies at him. The creature even has a painted-on mouth. Later he is awakened by Will who is checking on him. Will suspects Smith needs a new campsite. Smith is more than happy to welcome Will into his journey alone so that he will no longer be alone. Smith is a clever, pathetic, cowardly, little lion man.
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Venturing forward Smith and Will stumble upon the wreck of an old spacehip. The old wreck is covered in spider webs. The webs are apparently the handiwork of space spiders on this strange planet that spin silk-like spider webs just like those on Earth. Go figure. One of the funniest moments comes when Will attempts to open the door to the space vessel. It shakes in all its paper and tin foil splendor. There isn't a single, solid component to be found on the vehicle suitable for space travel. This space thing couldn't fly through the sky like a kite. It's amusing, but the whole vibe of Lost In Space captured a sense of adventure that certainly appealed to the inner child.

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Will is planning on heading back to base camp, but of course Smith pleads with him to stay longer. The twosome stumble upon a strange device. Will, without much thought obviously, places the blinking helmet-like cone on his head. You might imagine the dangers of the new world would influence and inform every decision one makes with a great deal of caution, but not on Lost In Space. This is a fact of life on the series and you have to roll with it and embrace it. The two explorers wish they had some delicious rolls and wah-lah they have them. Well, oddly, they don't actually get the rolls, but they do get some kind of shish kebab.
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Thinking about it, the relationship between special effects and sound effects are so closely connected on Lost in Space it definitely capitalized on the concept in its heyday. The effects are sometimes simple, but with the appropriate application of a given sound effect, an item can appear or disappear miraculously. It was tremendous use of the imagination for the period. It was clean and effective use of the technique and it was used frequently. Neverthless, the incongruous nature of our boy Will's thinking never ceases to amaze. Smith asks him what he'd like. He'd like a bike or a telescope, but then shifts 180 degress to apples. Huh!? Classic! Apples come raining down on Smith and Will. From where did the apples come? The sky? Okay. Well, we need to test them for safety of course. Let's eat them anyway! Okay. Scenes like this become more pronounced and commonplace on the series especially the pairing of Smith and Will with Robot.
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Will brings some apples back home and his Dad discovers them in his room. Dad, the good parent that he is, wants to know about the secret apples. Will says he has to keep them a secret. Don steps in and assures Will it's okay to rat out Smith the rat bastard because he didn't give his word. Don can't stand him! At least Don shows consistently good judgment and is never pushed over by Smith from day one. I like that. Will relents and tells his family he and Smith found a spaceship. Gosh Will, it's a bloody food supply. Why wouldn't you want to tell your folks? It's the difference between life and death on a strange planet brother. Also, The One To Be Pitied wonders why they don't just make a wish to go home to Earth. Of course, the series would be over and where's the fun in that?
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Back at Smith's new makeshift camp, Will informs him he has told his father about the device. Smith is having way too much fun with his new find to care. Don tells Will all Smith cares about is himself. I love Don. He has that bugger's number and damn it all he'll indoctrinate WIll to the ways of the world regardless of his innocence.
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Will worries for Smith and admits to Don he still likes Smith despite his flaws. Smith returns. "What do you want?," Don asks in his usual disgust. To my surprise, the writer was on top of The One To Be Pitied's thoughts about going home. Smith informs everyone he plans on willing his desire to build a complete, second Jupiter 2 so that it may bring them all back to Earth. His wishes don't exactly pan out as the Jupiter 2 that is created before them is nothing more than a model mock-up of the real thing that would fit snug inside the Fancave!.
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Back at the base camp, Robot analyzes the device for the family. There is plenty of snappy, fun dialogue in this brief segment. It's a delight to watch.

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Poor Maureen Robinson, does she actually do anything of a scientific nature on Lost In Space? Apparently it's stay in the kitchen and tend to the garden for her. Well, that, and be the greatest mom in space.
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Judy appears before Don in a new dress and he is extremely excited by her presence. How these two never got things going beyond flirtation I'll never know. Mark Goddard refers to her as his "summer romance" during the show despite the fact he was married at the time. It's not hard to imagine why. I'm surprised they weren't shagging the tar out of each other for three seasons on the show or behind-the-scenes. I'm impressed by his restraint. I mean holy smokes you're on a remote planet with very few rooms and some free time. What the hell are you waiting for? I know I've said it before, but she is one smoking hot, Norwegian tamale and I'm sure Goddard wasn't too shabby to the female set. What more could you ask?
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Will and Penny fight over the device too. Ah, sibling love. Greed is in the air and trouble too. Will goes to get Dad to decide who gets to use it. Penny decided to utilize it for her own desires. Smith indicated earlier the device only works twice a day. I suspect an overuse of the mechanism is in the works. Penny informs her father she has some wonderful new tapes. Tapes! Ha! Yes, the advanced tape technology. Anyway, she has Bach, Mozart, ect.. Her father cleverly points out Lie, Cheat, and Trick are also fine composers and gives Penny a verbal beatdown with his fatherly disappointment. There was a bit of lost opportunity to really explore the theme of greed is the root of all evil here. But the episode does go there in effect.
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Judy and Don arrive from their frolic amidst the stone formations. They are just in time for the family meeting. John is displeased that everyone seems to be shirking their duties and responsibilities in favor of using the "thought machine." Will asks why bother? The thought machine can do it all. John Robinson says it "sows the seeds of discontent, mistrust and indolence." Dreams aren't coming true. "Nightmares can also be dreams" he insists. John prefers the old fashioned methods of elbow grease and hard work. Once again, strong parenting is in full effect for the Robinson children most of the time. Granted Maureen and John were often a little too liberal about Will's time with the nefarious Dr. Smith. Hmmm, that does seem a little inconsistent.
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John returns the machine to Smith and wants it removed or destroyed. Smith refers to it as "the garden of Eden." Smith says he will take it back with him to the "derelict." Remember, Episode 2, The Derelict? He also wants to bring Robot with him. John tells Smith I don't think so.
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This is a pretty priceless image, no pun intended actually, of Smith with Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Smith offering a bit of character here with a sweet tooth for the riches.
Back at his own camp he is eating like a king. He also has the Mona Lisa behind him which prompted a question from The One To Be Pitied. If he can have the Mona Lisa why can't he have another real Jupiter 2? It seems a legitimate beef. Smith requests a servant from the thought machine. A mummified creature emerges from the derelict space craft and Smith screams like a girl. Smith demands coffee and the servant is angered and throws aside all of the tea and silverware. It motions to Smith as if requesting something of its own. It wants the machine. It is in hot pursuit of Smith who has run away with the device.
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Meanwhile, all of the items summoned forth from the machine are going to pot. The fruit is going bad. Judy's dress is in tatters. Penny's tapes are defective. John surmises correctly all of the items summoned forth from the thought machine are going bad. John isn't a professor of science for nothing.
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The creature walks swiftly with a driven persistence to retrieve the device. Smith gets back to the Jupiter 2 and activates the force field. The Space Family Robinson asks what thatm thing is outside. Why that's Dr. Smith's man mummy servant. The servant creature is zapped by the Jupiter 2 forcefield. It wants the machine as it moans with hands outstretched. Smith insists all he did was ask for coffee. Ha. Don, thinking on his feet as always, asks the only logical question. Where is the thought machine? Smith has hidden the device. John demands it be returned right now! Looking outside again the creature is missing. The family deactivates the force field and the men head off with laser rifles. The creature appears behind them and then blinks out of existence disappearing before our very eyes. John wants the device returned to the ship where the alien can find it. Good move. The creepy mummy man servant was definitely the kind of things kids enjoyed once upon a time.
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The often interesting camera work of the wonderfully shot Lost In Space.
The monster appears before them. John wants the machine and demands Smith return it to him. Good decision. Of course, Smith tries to pass it off to Will. Hysterical. With it now in the creature's possession it goes back into the derelict craft complete with crazy sound effects. Suddenly everything around them that Smith ever wished for disappears. Will rushes to open the door and there is nothing on the other side of it. Will wonders why. His father tells him it was greed and selfishness because Smith "asked for too much." Greed is the root of all evil indeed. John channels the lesson for us here.
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Epilogue: Robot instructs all to leave the launch pad area. Will is about to launch his own personal toy rocket. It lifts via balloon. The rockets will fire soon after. The space probe is intended to reach Earth. What!? Suddenly it explodes and the next thing you know we have a giant ball of fire heading straight for Penny and Will. Their father is making an attempt to save them. It's another strange, white knuckle conclusion leaving all to wonder what happened to the rocket? The creators behind Lost In Space continue to discover some interesting avenues to take with the antics of Dr. Smith. It's another satisfactory outing. Still, it's vintage-era sci-fi in the form of Lost In Space, which is a bit like eating a bowl of ice cream. You just can't stop eating it and enjoying every lick.
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To Be Continued... Same Time, Same BLOG!
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Wish Upon A Star: C
Director: Sutton Roley
Writer: Barney Slater

6 comments:

John Kenneth Muir said...

Hi SFF:

For some reason, I have almost no recollection of this episode, except for the ending with the alien. I do know "Wish Upon a Star" was written of in positive fashion in an old sci-fi reference book I own, Science Fiction in the Cinema by John Baxter. Your description did the episode justice, while also pointing out the flaws. I still find these early Lost in Space episodes in black-and-white -- despite some flaws -- to be enchanting in a very childish and innocent way.

Terrific write up, as usual.

best,
JKM

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks as always my friend. I'm not sure if people enjoy these Lost In Space reviews, but of course you hope so.

I have finished one more and I'll be stepping away from it for awhile.

I couldn't agree with you more though, there's something enchanting about it all that still elevates the material and even a very average episode can be enjoyable thanks to the film grade, the cinematography, the performances and what have you.

One more and it's on to other things.

Thanks so much for the kind words my friend as always.
SFF

crowmagnumman said...

The whole wishing machine thing was a bit weak, but as always, it's the character stuff that makes so much of Lost in Space watchable. What I loved the most about this episode is how utterly helpless Smith is when he's outcast to the wild. It's funny that so much of the time Will has to take care of Smith, because Smith is such a big baby.

SpaceLove65 said...

This was actually a favorite of mine. I first watched LIS as a very young child...and viewed it that way. I didn't notice the campy sets or korny dialog. I watched it because I loved it and wanted to be Will Robinson. But I liked the 'wishing machine'. This episode made you realize that perhaps not ALL your wishes should come true. I also liked this episode because Will and Penny kinda behave like brats during part of it..You know...like NORMAL kids!

steve ninetyfeetpermin said...


Another of the Sutton Roley episodes and his obvious fine camera work, notably low and high angles, close-ups and wide angle lens shots.

Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Interesting input Steve, SpaceLove65 and crowmagnumman. thank you.